It’s nearly party season, and you know one of the first questions you’ll get asked at every new get-together is, “What do you do?” So, what do you do? Do you brace yourself for the disappointed, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’m just going to say hi to my friend over there,” once you’ve answered? Or do you name the interesting job you wish you had and then hope that the person won’t start with the shop talk and catch you out?
If you go for the second option, here’s a trick: mention an unconventional job that is so unique that nobody will suspect you’re making up what your duties are. To inspire you, here are 20 unique jobs you didn’t know existed right now. They may even prompt you to consider a career change for real.
Professional mourners, also known as moirologists, have been around since ancient times – they were even mentioned in the Bible – and you’ll still find them in countries like China and Egypt. Most often they are women, and their job is to wail and cry and add some drama to the funeral.
Water slide tester
Their job is to try out new water slide designs and ensure the average person won’t break their neck using the slide. You’ll need to understand a bit about physics, be willing to get wet even in bad weather and be willing to risk getting hurt. In addition to good health insurance, you’ll also need a sturdy one-piece: it’s one of the bathing-suit styles that won’t make you cry the way you might if your bikini went flying everywhere.
Some professional mermaids stay on land, but you can also work at an aquarium, theme park or resort and amaze the crowds with your graceful swimming. Be aware though that swimming in a mermaid tail takes special skill. You can learn how to do it with specialized mermaid classes at several swim schools in Canada.
Pet food tester
Pet food testers are qualified in animal nutrition and usually work for manufacturers of, well, pet food. They evaluate the food’s nutritional value and come up with ways to improve the food. Part of their job may also be to taste the food (blech!). It’s a mystery why they don’t just let the pets do the taste tests.
In order to check the quality of the beans from each harvest, the coffee industry uses a practice called "coffee cupping." Essentially, they brew cups of coffee from the beans and then people with very sensitive taste buds check the coffee for different characteristics. Good coffee cuppers can even tell you where the beans are from. Coffee cuppers who do this for a living are known as Q graders.
To become a Q grader, you need to complete a course with the Coffee Quality Institute and get a licence, which is valid for three years. While the Coffee Quality Institute is based in the United States, they sometimes offer courses in Canada too.
Golf ball diver
It’s not an easy task, since visibility is very low in the murky water of a typical golf-course pond and the balls may be stuck in mud. Then we’re not even thinking about the creepy critters that may lurk in the depths. Typically, the divers get paid per ball they recover.
Water sommeliers like Canada’s Christina Li are experts on the taste of water from different areas and can recommend the one most likely to satisfy your taste buds. After all, there’s a vast difference between the taste of water from a cool mountain stream and water from the tap.
To become a water sommelier, you need to complete a course at one of a tiny handful of academies around the world.
To alert people where the whales are at any given time, the town employs a whale crier, who blows on a special kelp horn, and everyone just needs to follow its distinctive sound to get the best look at the magnificent creatures. The first whale crier started in the early '90s. The current whale crier is Eric Davalah.
Some people would happily part with cold hard cash if they could get out of having to wait in line for hours on end until the concert arena or the store with the good Black Friday deals opens its doors.
As a professional queuer, you do the lining up for them. The most important job requirement, we assume, is that you have a strong bladder.
Fashion historians, also called costume historians, are experts in the minutiae of what people used to wear in the past. And we’re not just talking about the '90s nostalgia of the outfits Rachel Green wore on Friends; we’re talking about what the Queen Charlotte or Catherine de Medici or Empress Sisi would have worn in real life and not in a TV drama about their lives.
Fashion historians can find work in museums or as consultants on movie, TV and stage productions. Some, like Amber Butchart, become TV famous and write books about fashion history. Others, like Bernadette Banner, become popular YouTubers. Most have paid their dues by studying fashion design and history.
Their background as hair stylists can shed new light on the past, like when Janet Stephens, who is usually referred to as a hairstyle archaeologist, recreated ancient Roman hairstyles to prove that these elaborate styles weren’t wigs.
The specifics of the job vary, but the basic premise is that a Covid-19 coordinator oversees the organization’s Covid safety plan by developing and implementing procedures to reduce the risk of infection on site. Usually, they have a background in public health.
But what is an intimacy coordinator? They work on film sets and ensure that everyone involved in filming an intimate scene can do so while feeling safe and comfortable at all times, with nobody’s boundaries being crossed. Their job is relatively new and they’re there to prevent the exploitation of performers.
Horologists are also known as watchmakers and as the name implies, they make watches and clocks. They also maintain and repair these timepieces. Canada's last watchmaking school is the École nationale de l’horlogerie in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
Most horologists work with jewellers or have their own watch repair shops. Do you want to work in some of the world’s most enchanting castles? If you’re willing to relocate, you may find a job with the Royal Household and be responsible for all the clocks in the royal residences: Buckingham Palace alone apparently has some 500 timepieces that need to keep ticking.
Piper to the Sovereign
King Charles III decided to continue the tradition of being woken up by bagpipes instead of using an alarm clock like us regular folk. Queen Victoria created the position in 1843 in a bid to keep up with the Joneses – or rather, with the Marquess of Breadalbane, who had her own piper.
In the countries of West Africa, these singers are also called griots and nowadays they’re mainly performers. In South Africa, there is an official praise singer – called an imbongi – who performs at events like the arrival of the President at the opening of Parliament.
So why risk getting bitten? The venom has all kinds of medicinal properties and is used to manufacture medicines to treat diseases like cancer or conditions like high blood pressure. It’s also used to make antidotes for when you do get bitten by a snake. Snake milkers usually have degrees in STEM fields like herpetology, zoology, biology, biochemistry or chemistry.
Reindeer were domesticated probably between about 2,000 and 3,000 years ago and are still kept for their meat and their hides. The reindeer herders who ensure that these animals keep to a certain area and don’t wander off tend to belong to Indigenous groups living in or near the Arctic circle, like the Sámi of Scandinavia, the Evenks of Russia, the Tsaatan of Mongolia and Greenlanders. In Canada, the Inuvialuit people herd reindeer too.
Professional sleepers usually test new mattresses and bedding, sleep aids or hotel rooms.
While you get to sleep on the job, it’s not all you do, though: you need to write reports on your experiences, so you need excellent observational and communication skills. You also need to be able to fall asleep in new environments and with all kinds of sensors attached to you while you’re being watched, so it’s a good idea to watch your diet for better sleep.
Paint drying watcher
They work for paint manufacturers, and they study paint samples to see how the paint’s properties change as it goes from wet to dry. For example, they compare the colour at different stages in the drying process and look for cracking, chipping and rippling. They also test the samples in different drying conditions, such as letting them dry with the help of ovens or fans.